Monday, December 28, 2009

From Bombs to Crayons and Back Again

ABC News is reporting that former Gitmo detainees whom we released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 are believed to have been behind the Northwest Airlines Flight #253 bombing attempt (Former Guantanamo Prisoners Believed Behind Northwest Airlines Bomb Plot).

They quote an unidentified U.S. diplomat who is less than impressed with the Saudi's rehab program for former terrorists:

"The so-called rehabilitation programs are a joke," a U.S. diplomat said in describing the Saudi efforts with released Guantanamo detainees.

Saudi officials concede its program has had its "failures" but insist that, overall, the effort has helped return potential terrorists to a meaningful life.

One program gives the former detainees paints and crayons as part of the rehabilitation regimen.

Paints and crayons? That rings a bell. In 2007, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired a short documentary about the Saudi's art therapy program, featuring Canadian journalist Nancy Durham.

Predictably, art therapy is a Western export to Saudi Arabia. Dr. Awad Alyami, Director of Art Therapy at King Fahad Medical City and the main figure in the PBS story, studied art therapy at Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Alyami learned about this innovative approach while studying in the United States.

Dr. Alyami: It’s not revolutionary a hundred percent because my colleagues in England, Canada, in the states … they’re doing some art in jail, but not with my type of population.

Nancy Durham: Yeah, this is what’s new. I mean these are guys who couldn’t have cared less about art … (garbled).

Dr. Alyami: Yes, Nancy do you think it was easy for me to start the program with them? No, I was scared to death to start with them. Really … because I had that idea that these are uh … criminals. They blow up buildings and stuff.

Indeed. Some of them still do blow stuff up. Nothing worse than an art therapy drop-out.

The sound is weak on the video clip, but you can read a transcript here.

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